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Penalty corners a concern for Iowa

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | OCTOBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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To put it simply, penalty corners have been a work in progress this season for the Iowa field-hockey team. 

After losing the bulk of their successful corner units from a season ago, interim head coach Lisa Cellucci has had to rebuild and reimagine her unit on the fly, incorporating a number of new plays in the process.  

“I think if I were to give it a grade from 1 to 10, I’d give it about a 6 right now,” Cellucci said. “Dani [Hemeon] was the only one who was on the unit before, and I think they’ve come a long way, all things considered, but there’s definitely still room for improvement.” 

For a team with as much offensive firepower as the Black and Gold has, one may think it would be easier for Iowa to convert these chances.

However, much like a power play in ice hockey, the success of a corner unit on the field is dependent as much on strategy and tactics as it is on personnel. 

Of course, it also helps to actually have the opportunity to convert as well.

“I think the biggest thing is actually drawing some more penalty corners so we can put our progression to good use,” Cellucci said. “Our goal every year is to convert around 30-percent of our corners, and we need to have more attempts and draw more if we want to even get close to that.”

In 13 games, the Black and Gold have drawn 83 corners, an average 6.38 per game — which ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten.

If Iowa wants more success on special teams, it’d needs to get as many chances as possible. 

“I think a lot goes into something like that,” sophomore Chandler Ackers said. “Not making the play predictable and using your teammates and our scheme to our advantage is huge. Everyone has a role, and she has to know it.”

Ackers, who saw action in just six games as a freshman, has started every game so far this year for the Hawks, including anchoring every Iowa corner by pushing the ball in from behind the end line.
It’s a role she’s grown with and embraced since the beginning, and while not perfect, she knows the only way to improve is through repetition.  

“It could be better, no doubt,” Ackers said. “We’d like to be scoring off of a lot more of them, obviously. We’re not there yet, but we practice them and continue to get better every day.”

While Ackers situation is central, she is not alone. Fellow sophomore Jessy Silfer has also taken on an increased role on with the corner unit as well, albeit in a different sense.

A defensive specialist and right back, Silfer works to defend the Iowa net from a penalty corner attack rather than convert them at the other end. 

“Being on the unit for the first time, I’m just trying to play my role as best I can,” she said. “Whether I’m the rusher trying to get in and score or I’m playing defense, we’re all just trying to improve one step at a time. “

Follow @ryanarod on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa field-hockey team.


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